March, in photos

I’m so glad for pictures! These months of busy but unspectacular days would be lost if it weren’t for pictures. (Lost to my memory, anyway. Not lost in their impact!)


Waiting for Daddy


Fiona’s fabulous drawings


<3


A shopping trip where I let the girls pick out birthday gifts for a friend — oh, the joy!


Sunrises


She is loving this new skill!


Learning to braid Fiona’s hair


NZ gear from the grands


Another year older = time to start some good habits.


Luther together for movie night


Cherry pie birthday traditions


My new vacuum comes completely apart for cleaning. AWESOME.


Blessing my two girls with fun new skirts from Mama’s sewing machine.


Birthday outing!


BFFs


Bubbles and babies.


Sometimes our friend Julie spoils us.


Illuminating our scriptures.

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Reading!


She loves her baby dolls.


And she loves her pretend friends.


March walks.


I just love these kids!


Outings with Cecily


Learning to bake independently


Sunshine and a blondie.


In denial about winter


What up.


The four amigos.


So sweet.

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Jameson performing for Grandparent’s Day — much of our months has been music for various things!

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Beatrice!

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William!

january: convalescence

January was going to be a great return to scholastic endeavors and household industry. It was going to be fantastic! We would be hemmed in by snowstorms without, and gathered near around great books and warm fires within. Can you picture it? I could. I thought it was a grand idea.

And then one week in, and I was on the couch with strange aches. Nearly three weeks later, I have cared for all of the children and currently am still on that couch, holding a feverish, napping baby.

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life — the life God is sending one day by day; what one calls one’s ‘real life’ is a phantom of one’s own imagination.” — C. S. Lewis

This little bit of a flu is hardly a trial worth even mentioning, but it is nevertheless just that: a trial. And the nature of trials is to tempt us into a poor response. We encounter the unpleasant or difficult thing, and are faced with the decision: how will we respond? Will we take the bait and fall into temptation, doubting and fearing (or just petulant and whining)? Or will we recognize the opportunity to grow in obedience and faith as we walk through the less than ideal?

*****

Weeks ago, maybe even months ago, I read a paragraph in “The Lifegiving Home” that struck me as an area I needed to grow in. I mulled over it and prayed about it quite a bit at the time, I recall. A few days ago, after many hours of snuggling children and planning ways to bless them in their sickness, I remembered reading this and was again refreshed in my care for these babies of mine:

In our hurried age, we have little time for frailty of body or soul. Sickness is an inconvenience we resist with the popping of pills and the forcing of will. . . What we rarely consider is the value of convalescence, the gentleness we sometimes need to offer ourselves and those who are weary and worn around us. Sickness is a space in which the uneasiness (dis-ease) of the body alerts us to the need for margin, rest, and special quiet.

*****

I’m reminded, too, as these fevers and runny noses have hemmed me in and curtailed almost all outside activity, that my YES to being a mother has a cost. It requires me to reaffirm that yes regularly, and to say no to much as a result. But I’m never so glad for those boundaries and focus as when my children suddenly need so much from me. It is so important to keep the commitments of life as simple as possible, able to quickly adapt to the constant and changing flow of needs. That’s not just for me as a mother, but I think in general. Certainly, whatever one’s calling or season in life, when Christ says, “Come,” we don’t want to be bogged down with unnecessary commitments and entanglements.

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Most of all, I marvel at the way learning to not fret about days gone awry, but instead pressing harder and harder into trust and obedience, has yielded peace and productivity. Oh, we may not have done all I’d envisioned us to do this month, but you know? Pretty close. And with more smiles and fond memories than if I’d pushed us through the rigors of my plans.

Yes, this month, with its fevers and tears and long nights, has also given me movies with my boys, books with my girls, hours of cuddling with my usually-on-the-go baby, easy mornings that gently unfolded, afternoons of quiet table work, and three proud school kids who are turning out reports and drawings and projects for their history deadline (while I hold that baby and read to my toddler.)

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Fiona’s newly discovered talent: drawing people!

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But just before it gets too grass-is-greener over here, I am exhausted. Ha!

Teaching From Rest

“Rest begins with acceptance, with surrender.” — Sarah Mackenzie, Teaching from Rest

I started this book after Christmas (when I finally found it, in the bottom of an Amazon box, in my Santa’s-workshop-of-a-bedroom.) I’d had it in my cart for months, debating over whether or not it was worth the full price. Sometimes it’s those $12 splurges that are the hardest! But I finally took the plunge. Something — Someone — told me I really should read it.

Only about 20 pages in, and I was already just on overload. Maybe you’re scrambling to order it now, and will find that those 20 pages hold nothing that special — I don’t know. Maybe it’s just me. Maybe it’s just what I needed to hear and ponder and repent of.

This issue of rest. Of peace. Of unclenching my teeth.

This issue of lordship.

That is, after all, what it boils down to. My obsession with squeezing every last bit out of every last minute, of making sure those moments go the way I “need” them to go, of freaking out when something comes up that is going to take those moments away from me — who am I serving? Certainly I have forgotten that I don’t own minutes, I don’t make minutes, I don’t get to claim minutes. They belong to Him. And I am His servant. He can set a list before me in the morning and then, halfway through, ask me to switch gears and serve a naughty toddler, a discouraged son, a hungry husband. He’s allowed to do that because it’s all His.

As I was mulling these things over, I overheard Ryan ask one of the boys for a double AA battery. If you have little boys, you know those are the most precious possessions. And my son responded that way. There was a moment of panic and freak-out, and Ryan just said, “Really? Who bought those batteries for you? Don’t you know I can get you more when you need them?”

And I saw myself so perfectly in that interaction. I heard so loud and clear: “Really? Who gave you this breath, this life, these 24 hours? Don’t you know I can give you all the moments you need?”

In Matthew 25, the Master hands out talents to his servants, a familiar story. But when I read it this time, I saw, “The master gave to his slaves of his own possessions.” It’s all His, and stewardship, therefore, looks like serving His desires with my time and energies.

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God isn’t after success, He’s interested in faithfulness — another nugget that illuminated a whole train of thought and conviction.

Certainly I know that. But in my efforts to be faithful, I’ve begun to define what that looks like and then judge my success at faithfulness (rarely do I give myself a good grade, as I’m sure you can imagine.)

And so in yet another paradoxical moment of following Jesus, I’m realizing afresh that repenting of idolizing productivity and giving my heart completely to His rule and reign is the road to (surprise, surprise) freedom! Because any number of things can hijack a moment, hour, day and prevent me from a “successful” end. But nothing, literally nothing, can steal my ability to be faithful in any given moment and circumstance. Jesus sets us free to win. We win! I cannot lose when I realize He’s asking me to respond by the Spirit, not hit a certain goal.

Take “my” moments and my days
Let them flow in ceaseless praise…

See? Even there! “Ceaseless praise” is not an end goal of success. It is defining my every moment! Success can be thwarted at every turn, but faithful, ceaseless praise—nothing can thwart that!

*****

So I recommend this book, but mostly, I’ll just encourage you to know that God is always pursuing us. He doesn’t leave us half broken. He’s a Redeemer. He’s a master Potter. The cracks and weaknesses and foibles that I am (or am not!) painfully aware of — He addresses those. I just yield to Him and follow Him on this path of sanctification, and find Him faithful. There is not much I find more comforting than to find myself in His hands again, being kneaded and shaped, knowing that He loves me completely and hasn’t forgotten me, and He has a vision of me being spotless and without wrinkle.

september 20

A little humor can go a long way, so I keep this certain image (recalled from a calendar growing up, perhaps?) tucked away. How many times has the late afternoon rolled over me and I can’t quite figure out exactly what we’re doing with this day, and forget the to-do list because somehow I can’t get above diaper changes — and this picture pops into my head, and I just laugh. How did Mary Engelbreit know I would look just like this so very often?

A little humor, a little serious: it never gets more than just “daily”. Sometimes we think it should. We wait for exciting Start Of Our Lives, which never comes. We wonder when that Calling From God is going to elevate our lives to awesome-status, and instead we just wake up every morning with bad breath and bedhead and an empty jar that is supposed to have coffee beans. There’s this one day where we’re just on the cusp, and everything is banging on all cylinders and we’re praying all day and managing the house like a whiz and kids are mastering math problems — but probably maybe definitely the next day you’ll wake up with a headache and have to take it down a notch or ten and remember that life really is just daily, and God likes to draw near to humble, broken people whose lives are no more spectacular than your ordinary Galilean fisherman’s, and this — your real life — is the stage for the glory of God to be shown. He loves to shine through broken earthen vessels. Don’t try to fancy-up the outside; just lean into Jesus and let His grace shine.

And He’s not picky. He’ll shine through on the most daily of days, the most mundane of moments, your weakest point. He’s not above miracles that look like a smile and kiss for the baby who won’t sleep, drawing bony boy shoulders close when frustration would push away, an unexpected wave of energy to greet your husband when you were near collapse. His miracles make daily life beautiful and glorious and redeemed.

Sunrises, babies that scoot, spontaneous happy play moments, neatly made bed + sunshine, pears that match, food that nourishes soul and body, finishing our first phonics book, learning about stars with Papa and his telescope.

september 6: starting school

Yesterday, we jumped back into the full swing of things.

Something about this year has my head swirling, nervous and excited, and I’ll confess that I had a hard time sleeping in anticipation of the First Day. Would it go okay? Did I think it through enough? Would they like it? Would it go hilariously awry or be tragically disastrous? (“Hilariously awry” is a pessimist’s attempt at positivity.)

It was great.

It’s a lot of work, isn’t it? It was after dinner before I caught my breath, and then wondered how on earth I ever fit anything else into life — including basic things like returning text messages! I did, however, get to shower before evening, so I’ll count that a big win for me. Jameson was, of course, excitedly pushing through as many math lessons as possible before I finally noticed he was still awake last night and sent him to bed. William loves a checklist and excitedly crossed almost every item off (I may have some pie-in-the-sky hopes for what we can do in a day. That will get reevaluated this week as we see how our rhythms really flow best.) And Beatrice, of course. “I can’t believe this is really my first day of kindergarten!” Then last night, getting ready for bed: “I can’t believe tomorrow will be my second day of kindergarten!” I wonder how long she’ll be keeping track?

And, in true homeschooling fashion, the boys even spontaneously spent the afternoon helping my dad with a project. Rocking real life is the name of the game, joyfully looking ahead to each day with a willingness to bend and bow and weave learning into the fibers of real moments.

We got to the end of our day, and they all played basketball and frisbee with so much joy for a few minutes before bed, and I felt so soul-satisfied. It is good to work hard, with abandon, at the will of God. One can’t measure success by “soul satisfaction,” of course, but there is fruit. It is deep calling to deep, echoing, “This is right, and this is good.”

Sirens, a rare occurrence in my part of the world, woke me long ago, and so I am up meeting the day, admiring lingering stars, savoring quiet. Maybe some of you are up, too, maybe getting ready to begin school at your house. Send students off for the first time. Or maybe there are no little pupils in your life yet, or anymore. No matter the season, this day is written in His book for you: Seek His face, say yes to His will, and therein find delight and fountains of life.

August 24

Time for change. That’s what fall is, isn’t it?

I step outside early in the morning, hoping to greet the sun as it rises. There is no hot, humid, heaviness as I open the door, only cool stillness. No matter that the forecast predicts nearly 90* this afternoon; for now, it is chilly. My hydrangeas are slowly turning shades of rusty peach, preparing for their autumn display of deep dusty pink. Geese suddenly appear from the horizon, honking their way south. Waves of nostalgia rush over me — sadness at leaving this summer behind, the sadness of countless others summers gone before. But the simultaneous anticipation of a new year beginning: new plans, new routines, new pencils, new charts. New tights and corduroys, new backpacks and lunch bags. Even better, old sweaters and favorite wool socks. This awaits us, and more.

Still, this summer with all of its firsts and adventures and laughter and spontaneous family moments — it is about to be packed away beside all the other treasures of my heart, memories that grow dim and fuzzy with age, but somehow form the fabric of family.

Anyone else slip into deep melancholy as the morning temperatures cool?

*****

Last spring was a school semester spent welcoming a new baby, and it was everything wonderful. There is a time for everything, and the Lord really helped me to embrace a time for slow, a time for together, a time to sit and read. We did lots of our school work gathered together in the music room, just listening to Tom Sawyer, or The Odyssey, or The Bronze Bow. I watched from the window as the four children ran outside to play, having helped each other don winter gear. Math and handwriting and all those basics somehow got well covered, and we happily made our way till the end of the year.

But there were little sparks of ideas for what I would love to do this year, when perhaps our school time wouldn’t be so centered around Mama cuddling a new baby. This summer those ideas have been brewing and percolating, and being prayed over lots. What is the big picture for this year? I try to ask the Lord for His heart each year. Things as pragmatic as “reading out loud every day,” “learning to recite clearly while making eye contact”, etc. But things that go deeper, too (and often those pragmatic goals are just outworking of deeper things, like connecting one-on-one, cultivating confidence, equipping to interact with the world, hiding scripture deep in their hearts.)

This year, my over-arching desire is to tie heart strings.

I have had a picture in my mind’s eye since last winter of a gathering time each afternoon where I am doing something with all three (and maybe four, as Fiona simply won’t be denied!) children. That is their love language: Mama sitting, creating, involved, right alongside them.

My eldest son is growing. There are not so many moments left of me gathering my little chicks all in a row — sooner than I know, it will be time to let them experience independence in new ways. And so I am burdened to tie these heart strings good and strong. To look in their eyes and help their hands and spend time not just downloading information or training in chores, but with them.

So we will have fun. It will not always be easy fun — it just doesn’t work that way in real life. There will be babies crying and flour on the floor, thread tangled and fingers stabbed, messy hands and dinner burning. There will be days when our hearts are out of synch and grumpiness threatens every plan I made. But I am praying for the vision to press through all of that and teach them, in so doing, that opposition doesn’t have be the end of effort, and that they are worth it.

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But for now, the last days of summer beckon. We’ll tie heart strings making chalk art, eating lunch outside, and taking spontaneous walks to the river.